Blog  Before and After: Experiencing Costa Rica

Before and After: Experiencing Costa Rica

Two of our Costa Rica teens, Marty Kearns and Nathan Park, share journal entries from days four and six of their life changing program:

July 24, 2013

Hola from Yorkín, Costa Rica! These first four days have been everything I expected, and nothing like Seattle. It is a really great feeling to accomplish things for the real world on an adventure to a rural and isolated place like Yorkín. In this Bribri community, there is very little technology, and in order to get to the village you need to hike or travel by boat up a river.

I wanted to come on this trip to learn about how Costa Rica has developed a community which is both economically and environmentally sustainable. In the United States, many things that are environmentally friendly, like hybrid cars and organic foods, are not economical to buy, and many things that are affordable are not environmentally friendly. The first night in Yorkín, one of the community leaders talked to us about the history of this village’s environmental efforts. The people in Yorkín were destroying their environment, so a group of women decided to come together to educate the people on things like proper plastic disposal and growing their own food. I love seeing how the Bribri community has found a middle ground, and I hope to use this information in my senior project, a graduation requirement in Washington state.

During the first “real” day in the village, we learned about organic living, and the concept of Eco-Kashrut. Eco-Kashrut addresses the concept of keeping kosher by buying organic and local. I learned about the benefits like lower transportation costs, and supporting the local economy, as well as the health benefits from food without pesticides.

And on the second full day we learned about the medicinal value of various plants in the jungle. We saw many plants that can be used as energy, pain killers, and plants that can even reduce the size of ulcers!  I have notes an video on all of these things so I will never forget them.

It simply feels great to find what I was looking for. We have been doing so much in such a short amount of time, I feel like I have known these people forever.

Adios from Costa Rica,



July 26, 2013

I can’t believe I am sitting on the bus back to San Jose right now. Four days ago, I was in this same seat with clean clothes and no idea what was awaiting me in Yorkín. It seems like I just arrived; yet, during our stay, time became irrelevant and the days moved along on their own accord.  In just a few short days I – along with my fellow Mitzvah Corps participants – experienced a plethora of activities that were eye opening in multiple senses.

To even list our endeavors would be an unimaginable task. However, what will resonate with me the most is the sweat. I doubt I’ve ever sweat so much in my life. The amount of perspiration exiting my body truly gave meaning to the expression “sweating buckets.”  I believe my fellow participant, David Moll, best described my look when he said, “You look like a Gatorade commercial.”  And I was not alone – nearly everyone had visible sweat stains and drops trickling down their faces. Between sparse patches of jungle rainfall and burning Costa Rican sunshine, it was hard to tell if I was the reason my shirt was soaked or if it was the clouds in the sky above.

Yet the feelings I had were not ones of fatigue or tiredness, as usual during perspiration; rather, of clarity, togetherness, and fulfillment. Clarity because I realized how today I get to live life without the amenities and luxuries I am fortunate enough to enjoy. Togetherness because I strengthened bonds with those I worked next to for hours. And fulfillment because I knew that the effort that I was exerting was going towards bettering not simply one person’s life, but an entire community’s dynamic.

I ride away from Yorkín with a new found appreciation of the world in which I live and the friendships I now cherish. I cannot wait to bring back my stories and experiences to the States and to tell my family and friends how much I love them all.

As they say in Costa Rica: Pura Vida!

Nathan Park